Thursday, March 1, 2007
Steve Patterson Resigns
Wow. Bizarre that he didn't at least ride out the tail end of his contract. Here's the official announcement:
"With my contract soon to expire and after discussions with Paul and Tod I concluded this was simply the right time to step away," said Mr. Patterson. "I take great pride in what we achieved during my time in Portland and am confident we have placed this organization on a path that will result in success for many years to come. We have faced and overcome significant challenges in the past four seasons and now is the right time for the team to push ahead with new management. I would like to wish Paul Allen and Tod Leiweke success going forward and thank all the Blazers fans for their support during these past seasons of transition."For now the team will be run from Seattle, which should thrill Portland fans, who hated Bob Whitsitt when he did that, and are maybe just a little worried about their team being permanently moved to Seattle.
Mr. Leiweke also will become the CEO of a newly formed management company, Vulcan Sports & Entertainment ("VSE"). VSE will assume oversight responsibilities for all of Paul Allen’s sports-related properties including the Trail Blazers, the Rose Garden Arena and Memorial Coliseum, upon the successful completion of Vulcan’s negotiations with Portland Arena Management and all properties currently run by the Seattle Seahawks.
It has also been assumed by Blazer fans that Kevin Pritchard would be in line for Patterson's GM job, but it's notable that his name doesn't come up even once in the announcement.
UPDATE: Brian Berger of Portland-based Sports Business Radio has all kinds of insight and analysis, including this:
It's an interesting case study to follow the path of Leiweke with the Seahawks and Patterson with the Trail Blazers. Both were hired around the same time and both were called to Seattle to interview directly with Paul Allen about how they would turn things around for Allen's teams after the departure of former executive Bob Whitsitt. I'm told of the story of when both were hired. Allen asked each to pick out a car. He told them they could get whatever they wanted. Leiweke, sensing that there needed to be some serious fiscal responsibility implemented in Seattle with the Seahawks selected an ordinary Toyota. Patterson, when given his choice, selected a BMW 7-series. Then shortly after, Patterson laid off 80+ Trail Blazers employees. Obviously a difference in styles from the outset for these two men.UPDATE: Another reason might be reflected in a poll on Oregonlive. Asked to identify their reaction to the news, at the moment about 5% of people chose "sad." More than 80% chose either "surprised" or "happy."
To Patterson's credit, he opened Paul Allen's eyes to just how bad things had gotten for the Trail Blazers financially. He worked with former GM John Nash to slash player payroll and to get the team under the salary cap and avoid paying the luxury tax that had killed Allen's checkbook over the several previous years. He laid the groundwork for fiscal responsibility - something foreign to the team during Whitsitt's tenure.
Patterson's downfall was likely caused by a few things:
1.) Patterson led the charge for Allen to file bankruptcy on the Rose Garden. In the end, this may have been a good move because it ultimately helped Allen rid himself of lenders he wanted no part of and gain control of the arena himself. In the 2-year span in between though, it was an ugly time for the organization.
2.) Patterson lost the trust of fans and media after the Darius Miles incident in which Patterson alledgedly made a side deal with Miles' agent to reimburse Miles the money the team had fined him. His halftime speech during a televised Blazers game was a failed attempt to right the ship and in fact made matters even worse at the time.
3.) Patterson's ongoing battle with the local media was wearing thin with Allen and the Vulcans and some saw him as too thin skinned. Privately Allen and his advisors wondered if they could truly "turn the page" and really get back to the top with Patterson as the "business face" of the organization. Their decision today answers that question. Leiweke, Golub and Pritchard will all have much friendlier faces moving forward.